Quick, name a “sort-of jazz” CD you own. Don’t argue with me! You know what I’m getting at: Chuck Mangione (Feels So Good), Spyro Gyra (Morning Dance), Grover Washington Jr. (Live at the Bijou) Heck, there’s nothing wrong with any of those records. They present a fine collision of jazz and funk. While purists will turn up their noses, perhaps while waving the “smooth jazz” flag, it’s long been my contention that those folks need to relax. That layer of funk is just as legit (in a walkin’ the bar sort of way) as the complexity offered by a bop composition.
Oh, and did I mention the fun?
Saxophonist Terje Lie and his band (David Garfield/Keys, Ernest Tibbs/bass, Jeff Olsen/drums) sound like they’re having a great time on Traveler. “Pier Avenue” is a blues/funk workout with some muscular bass layed down by Tibbs that inspires fine unison runs between Lie and Garfield. “Warp” lies in a similar vein but with more of a focus on improvisation, including a fantastic solo by Garfield. Then there’s “Runnin’ Outa Time,” which sounds like a jazz tune constructed by Steely Dan.
Perhaps the two best examples of what Lie’s band can do come with “MDD III,” and the closing track “Silver Streaks.” In the former we have a suspended, almost unresolved atmosphere over which the sax and keys throw ideas at each other (it makes perfect sense that this is a tribute to Miles). The latter turns up the funk with Garfield comping beautifully underneath Lie’s sax lines. Later on, instruments drop away to make room for solos. Go ahead and bust out those jokes about the bass solo: Tibbs kills here.
By the way, those albums mentioned in the opening paragraph? I own all three. So sue me!